Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

That's When I Learned to Give Thanks for the Pump

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

That's When I Learned to Give Thanks for the Pump

Article excerpt

Uh-oh. The pump froze. I raised the handle, poured water into the pump to prime it, and pushed the handle down.

The water I had poured into the pump ran into the sink, and no more water came up the pipe. The handle wouldn't push down a second time, and I knew why. Under the house, the iron pipe that brought water up from the well was so cold that, when my pumping drew water into the pipe, the water immediately froze.

As soon as it happened, I realized that I could have prevented it, but that clear hindsight didn't do me any good.

Despite bright early morning sunshine, it was very cold outside. Our thermometer read to 40 below zero, and it was bottomed out. During my preparation for winter I had closed up all access underneath the house, but our cats had dug access again to take refuge from the cold when we would go to town and they were left outside. The opening they had dug let cold air under the house, and I hadn't filled it in.

The pump by the kitchen sink fastened to an iron pipe that went down through the cupboard, through the floor, through two feet of air under the house, and into the ground to the water table.

Because the well was shallow and uncased, and because the water tasted strongly of sulphur, we didn't drink it. We brought our drinking water in gallon jugs from nearby springs or from Sumpter, Ore., 13 miles over Huckleberry summit. We did use water from the pump to wash dishes, take baths, and for household uses other than drinking.

We had more than three feet of snow around the house, and I started to melt snow and use it to wash our breakfast dishes. Any hope that I might have had about involving the whole family in bringing snow inside was dashed by the fact that the mercury still huddled coldly in the bulb of the thermometer. I wouldn't send Laura, Juniper, or Amanda into that cold, and I made my trips outside as brief as I could.

We sorted priorities. Laura, Juniper, and Amanda held their home- schooling classes as usual at the kitchen table, bundled in sweaters, hats, and wool socks. The first lesson was: Even a frozen pipe does not interfere with learning.

I kept the fires fueled with wood. I brought snow inside. …

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